**I cannot believe I've actually agreed to do this,** Willow thought to herself as she hung up her clothing that she had picked up in the closet. **I'd say it was the Hellmouth's fault, but I'm not in Sunnydale, I'm in Los Angeles. Unless LA has a Hellmouth, too. But what would it be called? La Boca del Infierno Dos? Or Tambien? And how come Spike can speak Spanish so well?**
She shook her head and continued to unpack. **You should have let Buffy talk you out of this. Why didn't you let her talk you out of this? Helping Spike was one thing - ok, it was a big one thing that I should have my head CAT scanned for. But taking up his offer of free room and board for the rest of the summer? Face it, Rosenberg, you have finally succumbed to the looney farm.**
"Settling in alright, Miss Willow," Maurice questioned from the doorway of her room.
"Yes, Maurice, thank you," Willow replied with a smile for the vampire. She really liked him, especially since she spent a lot of time swapping stories with him over the past two weeks she'd worked with Spike. Having extended her stay with Buffy, although some extreme late nights ended with her staying over, she was able to put off deciding what to do about becoming the blond vampire's Whip. But, she had finally broken down and said yes. It had absolutely nothing to do with his pleading blue eyes or the chocolate covered cherries - without the creme, a hard to find commodity - he'd given her one night as a thank you. None what so ever.
"I have sequestered away rations for you in the kitchenette. A word of warning, do not let Master William fiddle with the stove," Maurice said. "If the pilot light goes off, call me. Please. In fact, don't even let him near it when you are cooking something."
"I take it Spike doesn't have much luck with stoves," she commented.
"More along the lines of him lighting himself on fire," he replied. "He's done it before. Three times to date. But, then again, there was that period of time where we were not living with him."
Willow laughed, picturing the shock on Spike's face when he found himself on fire. "I'll remember."
"Very well, if you do not need anything...?"
"No, I'm good," she told him. "I'll see you later for our nightly ‘make fun of Spike and Angel' session."
"Yes, and I do have quite a doozy to tell you about Master Angelus, Master William and a bag of marbles," Maurice said. "Until later, Miss."
"Bye," she said. The vampire butler smiled and left her to finish her unpacking. The room was surprisingly clean, considering the rest of the suite, but she had an inkling that Maurice had sneaked in and tidied up for her after her first night staying over. Wondering where her new roommate was, she pushed her suitcase under the bed and moved into the main part. "Spike? You here?"
"Ow! Bloody hell," Spike's voice came from his bedroom.
Willow walked over to the open doorway and peeked in. He was nowhere to be seen, but maybe the clothes monster grabbed him and he was now buried. Giggling at her thoughts, she ventured further into the room. "Spike, where are you?"
"I'm trying to get this stupid, bleedin'...ouch! Dammit!"
She found him, or rather, found his legs. With a laugh, she walked to the other side of the bed, bent and peered at him. "Problems?"
Spike growled at her, halfway under the bed as he tried to pry something off the bed springs. "You could help."
"I could," she replied. "But then I wouldn't get to make fun of you."
"Ha bloody ha, ducks," he said. "Now get your scrawny chicken arms down here and help."
Willow shoved a bunch of clothes out of the way, then squirmed under the bed on the opposite side. "Chickens don't have arms. They have wings."
"Willow, shove it," he told her. "Just help me get this fucking..." His hand slipped and scraped against the spring. "Ow!"
"This wouldn't have happened if you were a little neater," she said. She could hardly believe that she was under a bed with Spike and teasing him. Tambien for sure. "Geez, Spike, are you sure you want this? You could just pull a clean pair out of the drawer, or pick up a pair off the ground."
"No, I need this friggin' one. I have to give my re- I have a date and that's one of my lucky socks," Spike replied.
"You have lucky socks?" Willow began giggling wildly, her nimble fingers untangling the sock from the spring.
"Shut up," he growled. "Just give me the bloody thing."
She passed him the newly freed sock, still laughing and watched as he wiggled out from under the bed. She stayed there several moments while she continued to yuck it up, her mind dying to tell Maurice of this little revelation. Of course, he probably already knew, but it was so funny.
"Willow, are you done yet?" Spike asked.
"Nope," she replied, giggling. She let out a loud squeal as she found herself suddenly yanked out from under the bed. She rolled over to see the blond vampire scowling down at her, which only caused further laughs. "I can't wait to tell Buffy. And Angel. And Xavier. And Nicolas. Maybe I'll rent one of those airplanes and have them-eeii!"
The hacker was abruptly buried under a pile of dirty clothing that was unceremoniously dumped on her prone form. She felt more and more being stacked upon her and knew that it would take weeks to dig herself out. She pictured herself in khaki's and a pith helmet, battling the undergrowth of clothing and promptly burst into another fit of giggles.
"Bye, Witch," she heard Spike's very muffled voice call to her. "I have a date to go on."
"Word of advice, don't tell her about your lucky socks!" Willow yelled out to him. She heard the door slam in response.
Spike shifted on his feet, transferring the pay phone receiver to his other ear. "So far nothing," he was saying into the phone. "Not that I've had much friggin' time to search, what with all the bloody work that was piled on me."
"But you have obtained a position within the conclave, as Primogen no less," Christoph said over the line. "That in itself is excellent, William."
"Well, if it wasn't for Willow, I probably would have been laughed right out," he replied. "That song was dead on - thank heaven for little girls."
"Tell me more about this Willow," the Ventrue Cult leader said. "Can she be trusted?"
"Of course she can be trusted, what kind of wanker do you take me for?" Spike snapped. "I'm not going to let a pair of luminous green eyes get me to spill my secrets, like a sexy, red headed Mata Hari."
"Red hair, green eyes, sexy," Christoph commented. "Anything else you wish to divulge?"
Spike reigned in his temper, glad he was wearing his lucky socks to help him. It wouldn't do to get technically his boss angry with him and he knew that the Ventrue's reach was far. He would not hesitate to destroy a vampire if he posed a threat to the Gehenna Cult. "She's intelligent and has been a great help to me in keeping my cover. She knows nothing of my ties to the Cult and will not know. She is my Whip and that is all."
"Very well, William," Christoph said. "I wish a progress report every two weeks unless you make inroads as to your second assignment."
"Fine," Spike replied. "Have a good one." He hung up the phone before adding, "Pillock." Checking the coin return for change, he made his way out of the phone booth and started his long trek back to the mansion. He wouldn't chance taking a car, for that would make him easier to spot and follow. As it was, he double checked that he didn't have a tail every few blocks. He stopped at a convenience store on the way back and picked up a carton of cigarettes, lighting a fresh one. Willow didn't like him to smoke that much when they worked and he had to get his fix when he could.
He wondered if the little Witch was in the kitchen telling stories with Maurice again. Probably. He found her there more often than not in the late afternoon after she'd been picked up at the Slayer's. The household staff and others who lived there had taken to the red head, despite her being human. He growled to himself when he thought of Nicolas and his more than friendly flirting, which Willow returned with ease. He wondered when she grew up. He could have sworn she was the shy, coltish sort.
Coming in through the back, Spike found her just where he suspected, sitting with her legs under her at the small table. She was talking animatedly with Maurice, Angel and Xavier. "Wonderful, the whole bloody Muppet cast together," he mumbled as he approached.
"Spike, hi!" Willow greeted cheerfully with a giggle. "I managed to foil your fiendish plot to leave me for the clothing gnomes to finish off."
"Bugger," he sighed dramatically. "And I paid them extra."
"How was your date, Will?" Xavier asked, a devilish smile on his face.
"Yeah, Spike, fill us in," Angel added, leaning back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head. "Male or female?"
"Living or unliving?" Xavier said.
"Did she have all her body parts?" Angel asked.
"Or more than her fair share?" Xavier continued.
"Good one, Xav," Angel told his friend.
"Thank you, Athos," Xavier replied.
"Alright Statler and Waldorf," Spike interrupted. "Shove it up your holes."
"But then we couldn't have fun at your expense, Porthos," Xavier said, batting his eyes in an overly dramatic gesture.
"Unlife wouldn't be worth living if we had to stop," Angel added with a smirk.
Spike looked at Willow and Maurice, both of whom were trying to contain themselves. With a snort, he bypassed them and left the kitchen.
"Think he's mad?" Willow asked, watching the blond vampire's retreating form.
"No, Miss," Maurice told her under Angel and Xavier's laughter. "He will be formulating a plan to get back at these two cackling ninnies. I've seen it happen before. And had to clean up afterwards."
"Well, I'm gonna head up," she said, standing. "See you guys later."
"Bye Willow," Angel said. "Tell Spike I asked if his lucky socks worked or not."
"Probably the only thing on him that's ever been lucky," Xavier commented. The two vampires started chuckling again as she left.
Willow smiled to herself as she made her way from the north wing to the main part of the mansion, then up the sweeping staircase to the second floor. At the top, she paused and looked back down, admiring how the great hall flowed into the ballroom. She could picture lavish parties being held, with women in ball gowns and men in tuxedos. A small orchestra would be set up in one corner, playing music of old as couples waltzed, champagne flowed and everyone talked with uppercrust accents about polo and Wallstreet.
Continuing down the halls with a happy bounce to her step, she wondered if Xavier ever held a ball. From Maurice, she learned that they had been here since the late nineteenth century in this very mansion. Xavier had worked his way into the position of Prince rapidly, taking control of the city with diplomacy and strength. She'd have to ask later about that.
Opening the door to the suite, Willow was immediately bombarded with loud music that had seeped out into the hall. With an arch of her brow, she looked questioningly at the blond vampire seated on the couch, his feet hanging over the end of the arm, smoking. He gave her an innocent shrug as the words to the song caught her ear.
You put de lime in de coconut
You drank ‘em bot' togedder
Put de lime in de coconut
Then you'll feel better
Put de lime in de coconut
Drink ‘em bot' up
Put de lime in de coconut
And call me in the morning
She closed the door behind her and snatched the remote off the end table, turning down the volume. "The Muppets?"
"I had an urge," Spike replied. "Have fun while I was out?"
"Yeah," she said. "I didn't know Angel could talk so much. He's a motor mouth! And he taught me some really neat swear words in Gaelic..."
"That's nice," he interrupted. "What say we skip the song and dance and get down to work, eh?"
Willow frowned as he rolled off the couch and walked towards the kitchenette. **Did the lucky socks not work? Oh, bad Willow,** she thought as she went to join him. "So, how was your date, anyway?" If she didn't know better, she would swear her voice was tinged with jealousy.
"A laugh a minute," he answered. "Now, get on that stupid machine and read me my email."
"Yes, sir, Spike, sir," Willow saluted, turning on the computer.
He scowled. "Since when did you get so saucy, little Witch?"
"Since I found out you were a slob who knows whom Statler and Waldorf are by name," she replied. "Since I found out you mutter to yourself in Spanish sometimes, for some odd reason. Since I found out that you watch Gigglesnort Hotel at 5:30 in the morning wearing nothing but Mighty Mouse boxers that read ‘Here I come to Save the Day' while you eat Booberry cereal."
Spike was actually blushing by the time she finished. "Yeah, well, I know that you...you..." Willow arched her brow again. "Have a hole in your yellow socks," he finished. **Now that wasn't lame.**
"And I don't eat Booberry cereal."
"Oh, yeah, that's right," Willow said.
"Yeah, that's right."
"It's Count Chocula."
Spike was having a day. He actually had a button somewhere that read that very statement and it would be entirely appropriate for him to wear it. The day started out normal enough. He and Willow had gotten into a routine of sorts over the past two weeks she'd been living with him. At 5:30 in the morning, she'd crawl out of her room to join him in front of the television wearing slippers that looked like giant bear feet and eat a bowl of Lucky Charms. Then, they'd both go to bed for most of the day.
Usually, she was awake and down in the kitchen chatting with Maurice by the time he rolled out of bed. He would get cleaned up; go out hunting and while he was out ‘accidentally' run into the other Primogen to subtlety grill them about the Omega Virus and the Antediluvian Cult, thus working on his secondary job; then he'd return to the mansion and collect Willow, where they would return to the suite and work. Afterwards, they'd watch television or a video, then the hacker would go to bed only to be up at 5:30 to start the cycle over again.
Imagine his surprise when he opened the door to the bathroom connecting both rooms to find Willow singing quietly along to the music coming from her headphones, eyes closed, and up to her nose in bubbles.
Spike's jaw dropped to the floor as he took in her flushed face as she lay her head back on a rolled up towel. His mind immediately conjured up exactly what she was not wearing under the bubbles and what she would look like glistening with the soap and water when she exited the tub. He knew he had to move, had to leave the bathroom before he made a complete fool out of himself, but he was rooted to the spot.
She lifted one soapy arm and he watched as the bubbles slowly ran down it as she reached for something above her head on the low shelf that lined the wall. He swallowed heavily and took a step backwards, hitting the doorknob with his backside. He yelped in surprise, then practically flew from the intimacy of the bathroom before she knew he was there, closing the door tight behind him.
He leaned back against the newly closed door, eyes closed as he tried to regain some semblance of control. Boxers tenting out, he told himself over and over that the nymph in the tub was Willow, not some sexy goddess handed to him on a cloud of bubbles. It didn't help. With a growl, he threw some clothes on, wincing at the tightness of his jeans and quickly left the suite.
And promptly ran into Angel.
"Woah, Spike, what's the hurry?" Angel asked. "Willow send you out in the hall because you've been a bad boy?"
An image of Willow scolding him for being a bad boy appeared in his mind and Spike visibly shook from the eroticism. Angel took this the wrong way, becoming concerned, especially with the threat of the Omega Virus hanging over all vampires. "Spike, are you ok?"
"I'm fine, mate," Spike ground out. "Just need a spot of fresh air."
The blond vampire pushed past Angel and walked stiffly down the hallway. The older vampire's eyes widened when it dawned on him what his childe's problem exactly was. "Oh boy," he said quietly. "As Buffy would say, this is so not good."
After finally managing to garner his rampaging hormones, Spike returned to the mansion and made his way back to the suite, intending on getting right down to work. However, this time, it was Maurice whom he met in the hallway.
"Ah, Master William, I have just informed Miss Willow there will be a conclave meeting tonight at midnight," Maurice said. "I shall bring up a newly pressed suit for you later this night."
"Swell," Spike replied, wondering yet again how he managed to get himself into this sort of situation. **Because you like what's in this world,** his thoughts told him. **Especially little redhead Witches who like to take bubble baths.**
Thanking the butler, he entered the suite to see Willow sitting at the kitchen table, already hard at work. "Did you hear? Meeting later," she said in lieu of greeting. "This time, we're not so rushed. I already have everything organized, now we just have to decide..." She trailed off as the blond vampire seemed to ignore her and go into his bedroom. "Well, that was rude."
Spike had heard her, but he wanted to be reminded of why he wasn't going to become involved with anyone, even if it were for just a quick shag. And somehow he knew it wouldn't be a quick anything with Willow, because he really liked her. The last time he started out really liking someone, he ended up with her for just under a century and everyone seemed to know how that disaster tore his heart to pieces.
"Fuck, where is it," he growled, sifting through the items in the change dish on the night stand. "It should be right here. I know it was right here." He started to panic, the change and other things being shoved roughly out of the dish. Not finding it, he threw the dish across the room, where it hit the wall with a loud thud. He dropped to his knees and began to look around the night stand on the floor.
"Spike?" Willow said cautiously from the doorway. "What's wrong?"
"I can't find it! It has to be here, I know it has to be here. Where the fuck did it go?!" Spike was losing control of his emotions, a rarity unless it was anger or he was smashed. But the emotion that was rearing its ugly head now was fear. Fear that he lost the item that meant the most to his undead heart. "BLOODY FUCKING HELL, WHERE IS IT?!!"
Willow quickly crossed the room and put her hand on his back, trying to calm him. "Spike, what are you missing?"
"My necklace," he said, his voice slightly choked. He looked up at her with fearful eyes. "It's a penny, a 1899 American penny on a chain. Dru gave it to me on our first anniversary alone." He went back to shoving things around on the floor. "It has to be here. That's the only thing I put in a specific place..."
"Wait," she said, crouching next to him and grabbing his wrists. He glared at her, but she continued undaunted. "We'll do this slowly and systematically so we don't miss any inch until we find it, ok?"
Spike nodded, forcing the panic back down where it settled heavily in the pit of his stomach. What was he going to do if he couldn't find it? He and Drusilla may not be together anymore, but he still loved her. No one can just shut off a love that was nurtured for all those years. Even if he was starting to like someone else.
"Now, what does the penny look like?" Willow asked.
"It's about the size of a quarter," he answered. "Copper. And the Liberty face is wearing off."
"And where do you normally keep it?"
"In the change dish on the night stand," he replied. "Always right there."
"Then we will start over here and work our way around the room," she told him. "And don't just shove the clothes aside. Pick each up and shake it out before tossing it on the bed." Spike nodded again, and she squeezed his wrists lightly. "We'll find it."
As instructed, they slowly began to search for the missing necklace. Working in silence, the task was arduous because of the amount of clothing and other stuff on the floor. Just as he was about to give into panic again, he heard a shout of glee coming from under the bed.
"Found it!" Willow called out to him, inching backwards. "It was behind the bedpost, right where we couldn't see it." She pushed up to her knees and held out the necklace. "Voila!"
But Spike didn't take the necklace from her, he took all of her into his arms and hugged her. "Thank you," he whispered into her hair.
"You don't need to thank me," she replied, her arms moving around his waist to hug him back. "I have a guitar pick from my ex-boyfriend, Oz, that he said he used the very first time he saw me. I wouldn't want to lose it, either."
Spike loosened his hold on her enough to lean back and look at her. "You are a wonderful person, little Witch. Don't you ever forget it," he said. Willow started to blush and he chuckled. "Come on, we'd better get to work. Can't be late, now, can we?"
They worked together with friendly banter until it was timed to get cleaned up to go downstairs. Then, armed with the nicely printed out papers, stenopad and a pen, they made their way to the meeting - on time.
"I think you are having a positive effect on our Master William, Miss," Maurice commented at the door. "Twice in a row, he is on time."
"It's the Power Rangers watch I gave him," Willow joked. "Why no one thought to just give one to him is beyond me."
Spike rolled his eyes and dragged her into the room away from the chuckling butler. They took their seats and went over the report together until the meeting started. It was much the same as the last time, with Antonio starting and then moving around the table. But halfway through Nicolas' turn, Willow noticed something out of the ordinary. Turning to a fresh sheet on her pad of paper, she wrote something in large, printed letters and handed it to Spike.
The blond vampire glanced at her, then looked down at the pad. **W-wat-watk the TW,** he read to himself, sounding out the letters to the first word in his head. Whatever it was, it had something to do with the Tremere Whip. Willow had devised an abbreviation system in order for him to easily read the report. TP was Tremere Primogen; TW - Tremere Whip; MP - Malkavian Primogen; MW - Malkavian Whip and so on.
He glanced up at the brunette secretary-like Whip, being careful not to be too obvious. If Willow had passed him a note instead of whispering to him, it must be something she didn't want to bring attention to. The female vampire usually sat taking studious notes, rarely raising her eyes from the stenopad throughout the meeting.
She was raising her eyes now.
Looking right at the two wineglasses sitting on the table in front of Xavier and Angel.
**Oh fuck,** Spike thought. He needed a distraction and he needed one fast before either of his friends drank from those glasses. His brain turned frantically as he tried to come up with something so as not to cause suspicion. Looking at the pad of paper still in his hand, he reached back and snatched the pen from Willow and turned a fresh page, writing as quick as he could.
Willow took both pen and pad from him as he passed them back and looked down at the note. **Fak big pan,** she read. **Ok, that makes no sense. Sound it out like he does, Willow. F-A-K. Fake. Fake big pain?** She glanced up to see him casting a quick glance at her, then at the Whip. Her intuition about the female Tremere must have been dead on as she realized exactly what he wanted her to do.
Swallowing nervously, she quietly stood after closing the pad and made her way around the back of Xavier, as if she were just leaving to use the restroom or something similar. Halfway to the door, she started the performance. With a small, fake cry, she grabbed her stomach and fell to her knees, curling over herself.
The reaction of the others was exactly what Spike wanted and he silently cheered at Willow's actions. Angel was at the red head's side in an instant, Xavier right behind him. Pretending worry himself, he grabbed the two wineglasses off the table. "Angel, over here," he said as he set the glasses down on shelf behind Willow's chair.
Willow whimpered as Angel picked her up and brought her over to the table. She hoped she wasn't over doing it. He set her gently down upon the wood surface and she wondered what she was suppose to do next.
"Maurice-" Xavier said, but the butler had already gone to phone the doctor.
"Willow, what is it?" Angel asked.
"Maybe we should bring her upstairs," Spike suggested, moving Angel out of the way to pick Willow up. The second her head became close to his mouth, he whispered. "Say no, you're ok, put me down."
"No, Spike," Willow said. "I'm- I'm ok. You can put me down."
"But-" Spike protested.
"Put me down, Spike," she repeated.
Spike turned as he was setting her on her feet so they were facing her chair. "Stagger, grab glass and hide it," he whispered in her ear.
Willow took a step forward, eyes on the single wineglass on the shelf. She faked stumbling as if she was weak, putting one hand on the shelf and one over the top of the glass. "Woah," she said.
"You're not fine," Spike said, moving next to her to pick her up in his arms again. She held onto the glass as he lifted her, pulling it up under her loose sleeve. He saw that the second glass was missing and his eyes darted to Trey and Nicolas, who were both standing nearby. **Cor, no,** he thought with pain as he saw the nearly empty glass in Trey's hand. **Fuck, fuck, fuck!**
He grit his teeth, then turned with Willow in his arms, heading for the door. Angel followed behind them, as did Maurice when they reached the bottom of the stairs. He needed someway to get rid of his companions when they got back to the room. "Willow," he whispered. "Have female problems of some sort."
Willow blushed, holding onto the wineglass tightly so as not to spill it. She wondered what the grand production was about, but was willing to wait for an explanation for when they were alone. Something about the way Spike was acting told her there was, in the words of Sherlock Homes, ‘something afoot.'
Maurice pulled ahead of them and opened the door to the suite. Spike took her to her room and went to lay her on the bed, but she protested. "No, bathroom," she said, meeting his eyes. He nodded and carried her in there, then set her on her feet. "Out."
"Willow, I think-" Spike began.
"Out. I'm not sick," she said. "And close the door behind you." Spike left, shutting the door as directed and the hacker looked at herself in the mirror. **Now what?**
On the other side of the door, Spike had to compose himself before facing the other two vampires. "I don't think Willow is sick, mates," he said, giving Angel a pointed look. "If you know what I mean."
Angel immediately looked uncomfortable. "Oh. Buffy does...is...oh." He glanced at the closed bathroom door. "I'm going to go now."
Spike held his chuckle as his sire practically dashed from the room. Now all he had to do was get rid of Maurice. "Maurice, could you get our things from the meeting room? And Willow may be needing some pills or something."
"I shall get right to it," Maurice replied, turning and leaving just as quickly.
As soon as he heard the outer door close, he let out a laugh. Knocking, he cracked to bathroom door. "Coming in," he said, then entered, his blue eyes dancing with excitement. He turned on the water faucet full blast before saying, "Cor, luv, you were perfect!"
"Perfect? They're all going to think...well, I don't know what they'll think, but they'll think it. About me," Willow replied. "Now, why did I just humiliate myself like that? And what's so important about this glass. And why do you have the water going?"
"The walls have ears, pet," Spike replied, picking up the glass and holding it up to the light. He got a pensive look on his face. "I bloody well hope the one Trey drank didn't contain the virus."
"Virus?" Willow asked. Then, her eyes grew wide. "Someone tried to poison Angel or Xavier?"
"We'll find out as soon as I get this to..." Spike trailed off and looked at her. "Someone to analyze it." He set the glass on the sink. "I'm going to be gone for a bit and I need you to keep up with your act for the rest of tonight. If anyone asks, I went to the store for you."
"Ok, but when you get back, I want an explanation," she said, folding her arms over her chest. "See my resolve face?"
"Fair enough," he replied, knowing he wasn't going to really tell her anything that wasn't general knowledge. "Now, you get in bed and act female."
Willow shook her head and left the bathroom as Spike went through the other door into his room, then into the kitchenette. He took out a sandwich bag and rubberband, then went back to the bathroom and covered the glass. Slipping it into the pocket of his charcoal grey suit, he returned to the hackers room to see her sitting on the bed, reading a book. "I'm off."
"While you're out, you might as well get me some Midol and tampons," she said without raising her eyes. "Tampax, slender, easy glide applicator."
"Right," Spike replied uncomfortably. "Uh, bye."
As soon as she heard the door close, she dropped the book and covered her face with her hands. **I cannot believe I just did that. With a straight face,** she thought. **Then again, serves him right for making me have ‘female problems.' Ugh. I'm never going to be able to look at those people again.**